Van Aert claims Amstel Gold win by the smallest of margins

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) was victorious at the 2021 edition of the Amstel Gold Race, taking the win in a desperately close lunge to the line against Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers).

55th Amstel Gold Race 2021 - Men's Elite

Thomas Pidcock of INEOS Grenadiers and Wout Van Aert of Jumbo - Visma throw to the finish of Amstel Gold. Source: Getty

Van Aert came into the finish with just Pidcock and Max Schachmann (BORA-hansgrohe) for company, and just managed to hold on for the sprint to the line as Pidcock came fast from behind. 

After the finish, each rider looked to each other uncertain of who had taken the win. It was confirmed quickly that it was van Aert who had won, but further photos showed it was desperately close with a pixel all that separated the two riders. 

"They say I won, but I don't actually believe it,' said van Aert. "Two minutes ago, the jury came to me and said that I won. I had maybe the worst position to start the sprint. I launched early and I had just enough."

Van Aert was part of the trio that attacked clear on the final lap up the Geulhemmerberg and then worked well together to hold off a strong chasing group to contest the win on the flat finish.

"It was not ideal with a lot of INEOS guys, but from the point where there were three of us, I was confident," said van Aert.

Edward Theuns, Julien Bernard (both Trek-Seagfredo), Stan Dewulf (AG2R-Citroen), Sebastian Grignard (Lotto Soudal), Maurits Lammertink, Loic Vliegen (both Intermarche Wanty Gobert), Chad Haga (Team DSM), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Molly (Bingoal) and Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X Pro) were the early breakaway. They established themselves after some early skirmishing on the relatively short 217 kilometre race race, 13 laps around the Limburg-based circuit.

The main bunch allowed the group to get a lead that hovered around four minutes for the opening and middle stages of the race. The peloton were content to follow behind, with the domestiques for the favourites coming forward to take up the chase. 

There was little action until 72 kms to go when the attacks began. Small groups and individuals scurried off the front of the race, but the lightly-raced main bunch were very attentive to moves going off the front and none got any serious leeway. 

The aggression saw the break's advantage brought down rapidly, and they started their antepenultimate lap of 16.9 kilometres with just over a minute's lead.

Vliegen was the last rider left off the front of the race from the original break as the peloton and attackers continued their cycle of attack and catch, attack and re-catch, the surges eventually catching Vliegen with 25 kilometres to race.

Ide Schelling (BORA-hansgrohe) replaced Vliegen as the lone leader out front, but was never allowed much of a leash from the chasing peloton. The Dutch riders maintained his lead until the final ascent of the Cauberg, the climb coming at the finish of the second last lap with the final lap omitting the famous climb.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) drove the pace on the Cauberg, causing massive splits in the already reduced peloton, forming an elite group up front including Tim Pidcock, Richard Carapaz, Michal Kwiatkowski (all INEOS Grenadiers), Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and Max Schachmann (BORA-hansgrohe). 

The Geulhemmerberg was the setting for a further escape, with van Aert and Schachmann following Pidcock's surge away from the rest of the elite group. The trio cooperated well together to build out a quick lead while behind there was a regrouping of 40 riders setting off in chase.

The gap to the chasers was only ever small, peaking at just over 20 seconds, but INEOS Grenadiers and BORA-hansgrohe did a good job disrupting the chase behind. 

Schachmann tried an attack with two kilometres remaining, but it was brought back and the trio went into the finale with a handy lead to try and fox with each other and conserve their energy for the final sprint. 

Van Aert led out the sprint, and appeared to have it won until Pidcock emerged from his slipstream and surged to the line. It came down to the photo finish, with the live pictures showing a desperately close lunge to the line, perhaps slightly favouring Pidcock. However, race radio and commisaires quickly confirmed van Aert as the winner, albeit by a tiny margin.

Michael Matthews flashed home from the chasing main bunch just two seconds down on the winner for fourth, the highest placed Australian in the race.

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
4 min read
Published 19 April 2021 at 1:51am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS